Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Vienna, day 5, part 2,“The Magic Flute”.

After the Belvedere, we walked a bit further south to the Military History Museum
("Heeresgeschlictemuseum") which occupies part of an extensive arsenal complex built in the 1840's. The museum building would have been a meeting hall or for something more like the community functions than weapon storage or manufacture, which industrial functions were presumably carried out in the other buildings. The elegantly decorated Romanesque structure has an entry hall known as the "Hall of Generals" which holds statues of all the Empire's famous military leaders from the 16th through the 19th centuries. The exhibit halls cover the 16th century up through the end of World War II, with an interesting portion devoted to the inter-war "Austro-fascist" period prior to the German Anschluss. There is also a tank park, which I found disappointing, since all the vehicles were late-or post-war Allied equipment only. The inside WWII display was more interesting, including a nice Kubelwagen (the German Jeep), a Kettenkrad (a type of halftrack motorcycle) and a rather rare Rauppenschlepper Ost, which I believe to
be the first purpose-built fully tracklaying transport vehicle. The exhibit also has a nicely preserved example of the dreaded 88MM anti-aircraft gun, complete with the "predictor" mechanisms for anti-air work, which towers grimly over the other displays.

The other periods were equally well done, with mannequins showing gear and uniforms for arquebusiers, pikemen, musketeers, Hussars, and other denizens of the battlefield, with the Napoleonic period being of particular interest since that was not covered by any
of the other museums we saw. The collection also includes banners, weapons, tents and other booty captured from the Turks in campaigns by Prince Eugene and others.

We took the underground back to our hotel and went round the corner to the Cafe Vienna for dinner. This time, I had a very nice fillet of beef with cognac-peppercorn sauce and Georgie had sole. It was excellent all around.

After a brief rest, it was back on the U-Bahn to the Statsoper for Mozart's "Magic Flute." This was a sold-out performance, and we were glad to have gotten seats in the balcony, which nevertheless had very good sightlines and we could hear perfectly well due to the hall's excellent acoustics. The auditorium is not actually that large, having seating for somewhat more than 1000 and, due to the stacking of parterre/loge seats (five levels, including balcony) no one is that far away from the stage.

Staging for this production was very avant-garde and we thought it worked well given the "esoteric" theme. The greater part of the stage was delineated into a cubical space, the side toward the audience open. The other five sides were made up of square panels, further subdivided into smaller squares which became doorways, windows, or trapdoors as needed. The major panels shifted orientation depending on the scene, and were sometimes further overlaid with projected images. It sounds busy, but the effects were used with restraint. The Queen of the Night and her women were costumed and made up in midnight shades of blue and deep green, contrasting with the sterile white worn by Sarastro and his minions. We were amused to note that Sarastro's anonymous myrmidons had bar-codes on their chests, showing that all the right and freedom is not necessarily on his side--. The production had some campy touches: the three guiding spirits, voiced by members of the Vienna Boy's Choir, initially appeared wearing "I (heart) Mozart" t-shirts. Later, they showed up in the white wig and full-bottomed coats that have become the shorthand for "Mozart" in Vienna.

Musically, the performance was flawless. In particular, Jane Archibald made the Queen of the Night's famous arias sound smooth and effortless, with no hard edges. Walter Fink as Sarastro had a rich and warm bass tone that was very pleasing. Hans Peter Kammerer and Laura Tatulescu as Papageno and Papagena were appropriately scene-stealing when on. Especially when you consider that this work is being done in repertory with 8-10 other productions this month, the perfection of the production was all the more striking. This will be a night at the opera we will long remember.
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